Adams, Apparatus, Features, Pumpers

Cantankerous Wisdom: Deck Lights and Work Lights

By Bill Adams

The purchasing specifications (specs) under the heading DECK LIGHTS/WORK LIGHTS said: “One (1) 6-inch Unity model AG chrome plated deck light shall be mounted on each rear stanchion. Each shall be controlled by a switch mounted on the light, as well as by a single master switch in the master warning switch console. The deck lights shall also serve as rear work lights to illuminate the rear of the apparatus to meet NFPA 1901 requirements.” It seems pretty much straight and forward—a cab dash switch powers the Unity’s which have individual on/off switches. Usually purchasers specify a flood lamp in one light and a spot lamp in the other. No big problem. I checked Unity’s Web site. That was a mistake. Unity offers halogen lamps in flood, spot, and combination flood/spot configurations. They also have LED spot lamps in two-degree and eight-degree configurations. The specs were confusing; the resolution was more so.

I broached the topic at coffee the following morning. That was another mistake. The raisin squad beat the subject to death. After four cups we couldn’t even agree on what the difference was between deck lights and work lights. So, I checked the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus. I’m sorry I did. There are different requirements for rear work area ground lighting, hosebed lighting, and ground lighting at points of access and egress from riding positions. Deck lights aren’t mentioned. Who’da thought?

Sentence 13.10.1.1—Rear Work Area states that the work area behind the rig must be illuminated to a level of 30 lx within a 10- x 10-foot area. Sentence 13.10.1.2 says areas designed for personnel to climb onto or descend from the apparatus have to be illuminated to a level of 20 lx within 30 inches from the edge of the rig. Why are the areas by the cab doors illuminated less than at the rear of the rig? Is it less hazardous getting out of the cab? 

Apparatus at the transverse crosslay and speedlay areas only have to be illuminated to the 20-lx level for 30 inches compared to 30 lx for ten feet at the rear. Crosslays and speedlay beds are usually six feet in length. You’ll be well lit (with light) for 30 inches; the rest of the way from the rig, you’re on your own. Watch your step.

Sentence 13.10.1.3 says lighting under cab door exits “shall be switchable but activated automatically when the exit doors are opened.” I agree with automatic door-activated lights; that makes sense. I don’t agree with the requirement they “shall be” switchable. Why do they have to be? The next sentence says all other ground area lighting “shall be” switchable. I interpret it meaning that it isn’t that important to have ground lighting on “all the time” at the rear of the fire truck. How come? Ditto for the ground areas on the sides where personnel may have to climb on and off running boards to deploy and repack crosslays and speedlays. That’s where a lot of work is being done and sometimes done in a hurry. The NFPA will make sure the lights are on when you get out of the cab but you’re on your own when you pull the crosslays. Don’t forget to manually turn the lights on. Hope you’re not in a rush.

Sentence 13.10.2—Hose Bed Lighting requires the same level of lighting in the bed as the ground lighting at the rear of the apparatus. I have no qualms about that. I do question the Unity deck lights in the first paragraph being used as both hosebed lights and rear work area lights behind the apparatus. How can you have the light(s) shining in the bed to repack hose and on the ground behind the rig at the same time? What’s the priority? 

Often rear deck lights are used for directional scene lighting. They could possibly be directed away from both the rear of the rig and the hosebed. By doing so, you’ve eliminated both the rear work area lighting and the hosebed lighting. Does that mean you can’t or shouldn’t climb onto or off of the rear of a rig until someone turns on or redirects the light? Rear work area lighting should be separate from hosebed lighting. Should rear work lighting be wired directly to the tail light circuit or to the parking brake? The same goes for ground work lights at crosslay and speedlay beds. Make sense? What do your specs call for?

Sentence 13.10.3—Surface Lighting addresses lighting on work surfaces, steps, and walkways, but it’s too confusing to address that now. In the Appendix, NFPA 1901 mentions work area lighting along the sides of a rig and hosebed lighting can be supplied by “line” voltage in lieu of “low” voltage (12-volt). It didn’t say surface lighting could be. But, what if…..ah never mind. I’m glad I’m retired.

BILL ADAMS is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board, a former fire apparatus salesman, and a past chief of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has 50 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.